Friday, January 31, 2014

Frankenstein In The Big Easy!

I saw this TV movie adaptation of Dean Koontz's Frankenstein way back when, but it didn't make much of an impression. I recently got to see it again and I much more impressed.

For the few who might know the premise, as I understand it the Frankenstein story we all know was based on real events. A Victor Helios really created a creature from disparate body parts and imbued it with life, a life that seems incapable of ending. Both Helios and the creature now calling himself "Deucalion" in homage to his "Modern Prometheus" father figure have tumbled through time and space and find themselves sequestered in New Orleans, an American city with an old heritage. In this city Helios has been using his science to not only keep himself alive but to create a new race of improved people with two hearts, massive strength and durability and sadly a limited ability to cope with the lives they are given. We assume most of these people lose their way and seek solace in some most peculiar ways. One has turned to serial murder and that brings in two detectives to solve a grim case which as it turns out has much weirder and darker twists and turns.

That's the set-up as the story begins and we follow our two detectives played by Parker Posey (Carson O'Conner) and Adam Goldberg (Michael Sloane) as they investigate a crime which hits close to home. They are eventually assisted by Vincent Perez who portrays Deucalion and who has his own specific grudge against Helios played by Thomas Kretschmann. You can't really discuss the plot without revealing key information, and truth told the mystery isn't really the core of the narrative. What's of importance is how these "new people" and the regulation humans intermingle and it soon becomes apparent that the searches for meaning they are driven to pursue are those we all might need to take eventually.

This is an atmospheric movie, depending heavily on lighting and some firecracker editing to tumble along, but it fascinates in an offbeat way. Smartly the director Marcus Nispel keeps Deucalion off screen a lot, making his appearances matter more. This is the story of lead detective O'Conner. Sadly I will warn you since this was conceived as a pilot for an unsuccessful series, there are dangling threads, but nothing which demolishes the story's impact.

I've never read any of the books by Koontz and Kevin J. Anderson in this series. I might need to find a copy of the first at least and give it tumble.

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Thursday, January 30, 2014

Monster Mash!

It only makes sense that with all those disparate parts, some of them would have rhythm.

 To get the explanation for this image go here.

And now for the obligatory musical accompianment:

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Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Monsters Of War!

I stumbled across a very handsome trade collecting up all of the appearances of the exceedingly Bronze Age run of the Creature Commandos. For a short time, in an never-ending attempt to claw their back to the top, DC decided that all their comics needed an ongoing series, including their anthology ghost books. So in Ghosts we got "Dr.Thirteen Ghost Breaker", in House of Mystery we got "I, Vampire", and in Weird War Tales we got several with "The War the Time Forgot" and "G.I.Robot" alternating with the "Creature Commandos".

The Creature Commandos were comprised of Lt. Matthew Shrieve who was regular human soldier, Warren Griffith, a psychological lycanthrope who was transformed into a for-real furry werewolf, Sgt. Vincent Velcro, a prisoner who was chemically transformed into a vampire, the ironically named Pvt. Elliot "Lucky" Taylor who became a patchwork man or "Frankenstein Creature", and later Dr. Myrra Rhodes, a snake-headed gorgon. These doppleganger monsters were part of "Project M" which sought to bring the ultimate terror weapon to the battlefield.

Joe Kubert
The Creature Commandos debuted in the ninety-third issue of the run with a story by J.M. DeMatteis and some trim artwork by Pat Broderick and John Celardo. The idea of versions of the classic monsters fighting in WWII on the side of the Allies is supremely goofy and supremely attractive at the same time.

Ross Andru and Romeo Tanghal
They returned four issues later with Fred Carrillo taking on the art chores. Carrillo would become the main artist most identified with the series though he had lots of help.

Joe Kubert
But in issue one hundred the art on the feature which crossed over with "The War that Time Forgot", we have Bob Hall and Jerry Ordway handling things with a Mike Barr script.

Rich Buckler and Dick Giordano
Jim Aparo
 DeMatteis and Carrillo return for the next few issues.

Joe Staton and Bruce Patterson
Then Hall and Celardo return for a one-shot in the one hundred and eighth issue.

Rich Buckler and Frank Giacoia
Rich Buckler and Romeo Tanghal
Ross Andru and Frank Giacoia
Ross Andru and Romeo Tanghal
The next  four issues were written by DC veteran Robert Kanigher with the under-appreciated Dan Spiegle stepping for some very tasty artwork. The stories introduce a new member to the Commandos.

Ross Andru and Mike DeCarlo
Carrillo joins up with Kanigher in the hundred and fourteenth issue and this creative team finishes the run.

Gil Kane
Gil Kane
Rich Buckler and Romeo Tanghal
Gil Kane
Ross Andru and Mike DeCarlo
Trevor Von Eden
 As can be readily seen, the covers for this run were done by a veritable who's who of DC talent.

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Tuesday, January 28, 2014

The Walking Deadman!

Deadman - Book Four continues collecting up choice Deadman tales from the pre-Crisis DC Universe. The spectacular beginning of these Deadman tales in Strange Adventures under the hand of creators Arnold Drake, Jack Miller, Carmine Infantino and Neal Adams (the character's most famous artist) is collected in the first two volumes of this series. Many of the stories guest-starring Deadman, particularly in The Brave and the Bold under the pen of Bob Haney appeared in volume three.

The collection starts with another Haney adventure, a raucous affair from an issue of DC Special Series which showcased The Brave and the Bold. Deadman is just one of several guest-stars with the Batman in this yarn which isn't the strongest, but is one of the weirdest.

Then the heart of this collection begins as Deadman gets his own gig again at long last in the pages of the Dollar-Sized Adventure Comics. The artwork in this series is absolutely superb. Jim Aparo is at the very top of his game producing some of the most compelling artwork of his long DC career in these few pages. Then he's replaced by then rising superstar Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez who begins his long association with the Deadman character. Artwork by two absolute masters, dynamic and powerful with impeccable storytelling.

 That storytelling is supplied in script form mostly by Len Wein with a small assist from Gerry Conway. Wein does a very smart thing with the deceased Boston Brand, he returns him to the big top. The circus offers up a goodly batch of relatively small-scale tales which fit the vibe of Deadman ideally. Deadman isn't at his best as a world beater, but more compelling as a local ghost.

This is a must-have volume for any Deadman fan as the entire Adventure Comics run is contained here along with a final bow in DC's other team-up comic DC Comics Presents in which Deadman partners with Superman, another powerhouse Garcia-Lopez artistic effort.

Get this! It's fantastic!

Here's a glimpse of the previous three volumes in this series.

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Monday, January 27, 2014

The Breath Of God!

Sherlock Holmes: The Breath of God by Guy Adams is a delightful romp of a Sherlock Holmes pastiche. It has a great momentum as Holmes and Watson come up against the supernatural and find themselves among a gaggle of somewhat infamous associates. Dr. John Silence created by Algernon Blackwood finds his way to 221B Baker Street and enlists Holmes to help him battle the magical machinations of "The Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn", or at least elements of it. Reluctantly Sherlock relents and allows himself to be brought into the case which eventually ends up taking the detectives to Boleskine, the lair of Alesteir Crowley. Along the way they meet up with Thomas Carnacki, the ghost detective created by William Hope Hodgson and Julian Karswell, the warlock invented by M.R. James for his story "Casting the Runes" which gave inspiration for the movie Night of the Demon.

The action is hectic and there is plenty which seems totally out of this mundane world, much which presumably would ultimately challenge the logic of Sherlock Holmes. Seeing Holmes and Watson in particular battle against the onslaught of the irrational is the key to this sprawling tale, from England to Scotland and back again. The personalities of the various magical types are vivid and entertaining.

I hesitate to say much for dread of spoiling this story, but I found Adams a worthy writer who doesn't so much ape the work of Doyle, but blend the elements of sundry writers into a satisfying whole. I have my reservations about what happens to one character alas, but nothing is ever ideal.

This is very much recommended.

This novel precedes Sherlock Holmes: The Army of Dr.Moreau which I looked at here. Having now read both, there is little direct connection between them.

Here are some tasty volumes to find out more about the sundry characters found in this tale. I just picked up the Hodgson volume myself and hope to read it soon.

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Sunday, January 26, 2014

The Invaders (In Color)!

For many many years the only experience I ever had with Quinn Martin Productions' The Invaders TV series was through the excellent Big Little Book I got hold of as a kid during the shows brief heyday in 1967 and 1968. I read and enjoyed "Alien Missle Threat" a few times and still have my original and much cherished copy.

But more recently I've been able to get hold of the show itself and give it a proper viewing. I was mostly inspired not only for my love of vintage sci-fi TV, but specifically to see how this show influenced my favorite 90's TV show The X Files. And as it turns out, quite a bit.

The first season followed swiftly on Quinn Martins' successful The Fugitive, and no secret is made that they wanted another show following along those lines. So Larry Cohen cooked up the notion that a lone man, a witness would pursue the threat of alien invasion single-handedly and single-mindedly. The first season was as much a study in paranoia as a sci-fi thriller. While the viewer is reasonably confident David Vincent (played masterfully by the exceedingly handsome Roy Thinnes - according to my wife) has truly seen aliens, few of his fellow characters believe him and he himself doubts from time to time. Slowly and relentlessly he uncovers threat after threat following the most vague of clues around the country, and often stopping the menace. But while it's a compelling concept, it's alas a limited one. And even by the end of Season One, you can tell the framework of the series is changing.

Those changes are all too evident in the second and final season as David finds allies in his struggle against the aliens, a group of "Believers" who funded by an important and wealthy industrialist are able to up the ante in the battle against the invaders. Kent Smith plays the industrialist Scoville who becomes a virtual co-star through the remainder of the series run.  Eventually the authorities are drawn into the secret war and by the end of the season it's hardly a matter of David's sanity, but merely a question of how effectively the human race itself will face this looming and growing threat. The second season offers up much more detail about the aliens themselves as we learn there are factions within their ranks, not all of them thinking the invasion is a good thing for anyone. They have a decidedly caste society with some few designated as "Leaders", of which only a half dozen have come to Earth. We get to see inside the iconic spaceships more than once, and the invaders themselves die in droves as they meet their maker by immolating in a bright red after death.

It's a fun, fun show with solid acting and often solid scripts. Some are better than others, but all have the professional patina a viewer can associate with any Quinn Martin show. There's a snap and briskness to the whole endeavor which speaks of quality. The special effects are downright good for the time, and in the final season are often on display. I imagine though if the show had gone on much longer it would've gotten dreary as the struggle against the invaders by definition needed to advance and develop or become repetitive. This happened on The X-Files after several years. The mystery can only be maintained for so long before it becomes an enigma of little interest to anyone.

The Invaders was adapted to not only Big Little Books, but also to comic book form. Below are the covers to the four issues of the comic published by Gold Key. Here are some links which will take you to a site where you can read the complete issues beautifully rendered by the painfully under-appreciated Dan Spiegle. Just click on the issue numbers - go to The Invaders #1, #2, #3, and #4.

Also there were some paperbacks written by the likes of Keith Laumer and others which filled in details of David Vincent's battle. I've never read these, but I'd love the chance to some day.

And finally there's this Whitman gem, a novel which serves as a companion of sorts to the BLB. It's a great stark image of Vincent as he runs in terror from the approaching saucer. The evocative logo for the show is much in evidence on this one.

Great stuff, and highly recommended. If you can find The Invaders for a reasonable price, I don't think you'll be disappointed. And as they dramatically announce at the beginning of every episode, it's "in color".

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